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THE RUBBER ROOMS

    Once it was proposed that the White House and both wings of the Capitol building be equipped with rubber-lined rooms.
    The intent of the proposal was precautionary. The number of otherwise apparently sane people crashing into walls while in the throes of partisan zeal had grown alarmingly. Victims were especially prone to this risky behavior when it appeared members of the opposition were engaging or planning to engage in such acts themselves. Throwing yourself against a wall first could mean the difference between getting the better of adversaries and merely covering yourself with embarrassing wounds, telltale evidence of your own slowness of wit or political reflexes.
    Even with such a sense of urgency, however, the rubber-room proposal might have proved to be just another example of a good idea destined to go nowhere had it not been for the fact that publicity and campaign photos of some very prominent figures were beginning to be indistinguishable from mug shots of bruised street toughs arrested for brawling in public and generally posing a threat to the safety of the community at large.
    This belated concern for appearance and potential confusion in the minds of voters over exactly whom they had elected was what finally made the difference. The only matter of dispute then became not whether to line rooms in the White House and the Capitol building with protective rubber but whether to line all of them.
    For nobody wanted to contemplate the possibility that a day might soon come when even campaign photos resembling mug shots might prove useless in identifying the leaders of the country.