Under cover at the White House

I wrote a book about bail reform in the mid-1960s, Ransom: A Critique of the American Bail System, which Harper and Row published. When the federal government changed its bail procedures, President Johnson invited people who had special interests in these legislative reforms to attend his bill signing and receive a ceremonial pen commemorating the event. Unknown to me, my invitation went mistakenly to another Ronald Goldfarb. He decided to go (more on his reasoning in a moment).

By chance, I bumped into Joe Califano, then White House counsel to LBJ, walking on the street between my office on 16th Street and the White House. We chatted for a minute and as we separated, Joe said: “See you tomorrow at the White House.”

“What do you mean?” I responded.

Joe explained. When I said I’d not received any invitation, Joe said he’d take care of correcting the glitch; I should just come to the White House gate and my name would be on the list for the event.

I came the next day. So did the other Ronald Goldfarb. He explained to officials then that he’d been receiving late-night phone calls when I wrote controversial articles or op-eds, and when my daughter was born, and he viewed this misdirected invitation as his quid pro quo for his inconveniences. He resented being told, “You’re not the real Ronald Goldfarb,” he said.

All were amused, not alarmed, by his appearance, and he was allowed to stay for the signing (only I got the pen, as the photo here shows). The picture hangs on my memorabilia wall in my office today. The Washington Post gossip columnist even wrote up the story of the mistaken identity at the White House, and everyone laughed it off.

No congressional inquiries, no Secret Service investigations, no White House harrumphing. How times have changed.


Visit www.RonaldGoldfarb.com.

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