Three Letters from Congressmen
Wow, two updates for the price of one! This weekend, I got another letter from a different Congressman, this time from John Linder of the U.S. House of Representatives. Also, I dug through some old mail and found that I had indeed also received a reply from Johnny Isakson, which is three replies for three letters. First things first: I offer my apologies to Mr. Linder, who I incorrectly identified as one of my senators in the earlier post. In fact, he is the Seventh District Representative from Georgia. The two senators, of course, are Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson. It was a stupid mistake made in the heat of trying to get the entry posted. And, of course, I hope no one took my earlier post as a knock on Senator Isakson, whose letter I promptly received before the other two.
The text of my letter was exactly the same as that posted in the comments of my earlier post. I've posted Senator Isakson's and Mr. Linder's complete replies to me in the comments of this post. I've reviewed both letters below for no good reason other than I've got a little time to kill today. These reviews are based solely on somewhat objective measures, not on politics or beliefs.
On informational content, the clear winner is Saxby Chambliss. His was the only letter I received that exceeded a single page. While normally I admire brevity and succinctness, Senator Chambliss's letter clearly had more "guts" to it than the others did. He was the only one who mentioned any details about what Congress is doing to resolve the problems facing Social Security. He quoted sources, dropped names of political rivals he's working with, and made a stand on the issue. Well, as much of a stand as a politican can make, anyway.
On personalization, Johnny Isakson gets kudos. His was the only letter that didn't seem to be a form letter in its entirety. I was very impressed when at the end of his letter, he says, "[T]hank you for your suggestions on how best to reform social security. Rest assured, I will keep your thoughts in mind as Congress discusses this vital issue." Nice. Although whoever typed this forgot to properly capitalize "Social Security," at least one of them tried to make me feel like someone read the letter that I sent and responded specifically to what I wrote. I think all of the signatures were printed on the letters instead of personally signed. I've copied scanned pictures of all three below.
As mentioned before, Saxby Chambliss's signature is broken by the print on the letter. If the letters were raised or made of some sort of wax ink, I could explain it away, but they're not. Johnny Isakson's signature was obviously printed. When I did a high-res scan of it, you can actually see the aliasing ("jaggies") produced by the printer, and worse, you can actually see spots where the resolution of the printer isn't quite up to snuff. The content of the letter was the most personal, but the signature was obviously a printout.
John Linder's signature at a glance looks geniune, as if it were made with a blue magic marker. Why anyone would sign a letter with a magic marker is beyond me, but whatever floats your boat, I suppose. The places where lines in the signature intersect (e.g. where the extension line of the capital J crosses through the rest of the name) are darker blue than other places in the signature, which is clever. However, when I flip the letter over (does that make me a flip-flopper?), there is no bleed-through at all. Now I don't know if you remember when you were five and drew on paper with a magic marker, but my mom would always fuss at me if I didn't have something under the paper I was drawing on to absorb the extra ink. The letter's paper doesn't really look special, and I would expect the same bleed-though to happen on it if Mr. Linder had really signed the letter personally, but there is none, nada, zip. Just to test my theory with scientific investigation, I got out a Sharpie® and signed my name on an unused part of the letter. I didn't have blue, but you can see the results below of what happens when red is used:
I'll let you decide what to make of the signatures. By all means, post a comment and let me know if those thoughts run deep.
As for style, it's a toss-up. Saxby Chambliss's letter is printed on a slightly thicker stock of letterhead; the other two letters are on thinner paper. This gives it a bit more of a professional and "Congressional" feel to it. John Linder's tone was a bit more informal than the others, and I've got to admit that it makes him seem a little more like just an average kind of guy than the others. Saxby Chambliss was never anything but formal and, one could argue, slightly inapproachable. Saxby Chambliss's letter was the only one that used the standard convention of having the person who typed the letter's initials at the bottom. There is a small "SC:ca", indicating that the letter was written by Saxby Chambliss (initials SC) but typed by someone else ( initials CA). However, this was slightly undone by the fact that all three letters were watermarked with The Great Seal, but Saxby Chambliss's letter was printed with the watermark upside down. John Linder's had the watermark with the correct orientation, but it was marked with the wrong year (2004, instead of 2005 as the other letters indicated). Oh well, I guess I'm just being picky now, and I certainly would never base my vote on whose watermarks are correct.
If you find this entry remotely amusing or interesting, I highly recommend that you read The Senator Prank by John Hargrave, who pretended he was a fifth grader and wrote to all 100 U.S. senators (as of 2003), told them that he wants to be a comedian when he grows up, and asked them what their favorite joke is. And, of course, I highly encourage you to write to your own Congresspeople or even President Bush and let them know what you think about the issues of the day.