Have you tried to write to President Donald Trump? I don’t mean an email, tweet, text or some electronic form of corresponding but rather a real letter. One with a stamp on it.
The last U.S. president I wrote an actual letter to was George H.W. Bush in 1991. He’s dead now, but even when he was alive, I doubt he would have remembered it.
I told George that I didn’t vote for him but that he seemed to be doing a relatively good job of handling the first Persian Gulf War despite my previous glaring lack of confidence.
I’m sure he slept better knowing that some guy in Utah was giving him kudos for not turning the Gulf War into a nuclear one.
My letter was only a few paragraphs and ended with a question. I wanted know, once the war was over, whether we could do to the IRS what we’d done to Saddam Hussein. I figured it was a fair question since George was hollering so much about standing up to unchecked aggression.
Astonishingly, I got a letter back from the president about a month later. It isn’t very long. In fact, I have it right here.
It’s addressed to me — or at least to a Mr. Kirby — and it’s full of phrases like “courageous troops,” “ruthless aggression” and “tremendously proud.” There’s nothing in it about smart-bombing the IRS.
I don’t believe George actually wrote back to me. Color me cynical, but I just couldn’t see him sitting at his desk in his underwear with a cup of morning motivation, struggling to properly phrase his thoughts to me, which is exactly how I penned my letter to him.
My money says George never saw my letter — even though it has his signature at the bottom.
The fact that George didn’t write to me personally doesn’t bother me, but I don’t feel special either. After all, 8 million other letter writers probably got precisely the same response.
Here’s how I figure my “personal” letter from the president was crafted. In the White House basement — right next to the Secret Service submachine-gun range where Nancy Reagan once held her seances — was a room filled with computers and civil servants. These employees’ job was to read (defuse) the hundreds of thousands of letters that poured in addressed to the president.
These readers were pros. They scanned each letter for content, picking out phrases like “I wish you were dead” or “please shoot a missile up Saddam’s fundament,” whereupon the readers press a button and a printer spits out a form letter.
Buzz phrase for buzz phrase was about as personal as it got back then.
Civil servant • “OK, we got a ‘fair job’ and … uh-oh, what’s this? ‘I didn’t vote for you’ and a direct mention of ‘bombing the IRS.’ Good Lord, that gets a Z-9 reply. Wait a minute, here’s a cursory ‘God bless.’ Let’s tone it back to an R-3 response.”
I put my letter from President George H.W. Bush in a plastic sleeve so it wouldn’t get wrinkled when I showed it off to friends and family. One of my daughters even took it to school for show and tell.
My Twitter- and Instagram-raised grandchildren are less impressed. When I showed them the letter, a granddaughter barely looked at it.
“Right, Pops,” she said. “You’ve got a form letter in a plastic sleeve while your letter went straight to a D.C. dump. Major wow.”
Where do kids get their cynicism these days?
Robert Kirby is The Salt Lake Tribune’s humor columnist. Follow Kirby on Facebook.