Or, if they're single, they put together elaborate ensembles of sequinned masks and black gloves, Cher-curl wigs and capes, fangs and rubber noses and breast stuffing and funny hats, and then prance over to something along the lines of the Beaux Arts Ball.
They have better things to do. How can politicians pig out on candy and indulge in feather boas when they have the somber task of protecting the nation from lay-about leeches and scheming vipers? After all, carving up pumpkins can't possibly hold a candle to carving up welfare as we know it. Bobbing for apples can't possibly be as tempting as bobbing for waste and fraud in that murky vat of Medicare. And how can telling ghost stories compare with telling real-life horror stories about how artists, inner-city mothers, immigrants, old folks and homosexuals are using your money to support their anti-family values and lifestyles?
Indeed, it seems fairly likely that Halloween flits across Washington's calendar with no more recognition than National Polka Dancers Day. Major media events are fashioned at Thanksgiving out of the quest for the perfect turkey, and at Christmas for the lighting of the White House tree, and certainly heads of state have been known to attend Easter Egg hunts and Fourth of July concerts by the Beach Boys. Birthday golf outings on Martha's Vineyard make the headlines; St. Patrick's Day inspires legislators to scramble for their greenest green. Even Valentine's Day rates high in photo ops of that rarest of couples: congressional beloveds, heads tipped together in a sweetheart embrace.
But Halloween? Hard to imagine anyone accepting my invitation. But let's try. I would ask, and they would come. And so, on the night of the black cats and full moon, I'd look out my window and see Newt in his Bozo-best, coming up to my door with Clinton in his Hugh Hefner finest. They'd shake my hands, say ''Boo," and then, just as I had walked them inside to the punch, in would sweep all the rest: Colin Powell as a ghost, Ross Perot as a giant sucking sound, Dan Quayle as a potato, Bob Dole as a vampire in search of Al Gore, disguised as a petrified tree.
"Enjoy yourselves!" I'd announce from the center of the ballroom. ''Help yourselves to the games!" The Democrats would vacillate over who got to pin the tail on the donkey until someone realized that the poster had so many holes, the tail couldn't stick on anyway. The Republicans would crowd around the Monopoly table, making new rules so that all the spectators went to jail. As for the third- and independent-party honchos, they would dance about solo, unconcerned when they accidentally knocked the other guests off their feet.
It would be wonderful. My friends could mingle with the monomaniacs. It would be my most memorable party in years.
I know better. Politicians have places to go, programs to slash, people to blame. They need their isolation. Think about it: How could they kick up their heels when there's still a single welfare queen in the Bronx popping out new babies so she can get food stamps? How could they dab on a touch of rouge when there's still one greedy retiree in a paid-up trailer in Tampa milking Social Security dry? How could they bite into the great American chocolate bar when there's still one Cuban refugee floating to our shores in an inner tube so he can steal tax credits?
So I finally scratched the idea of sending them invitations to my party. I simply couldn't, in good conscience, ask them to join my friends. We know how to have a rip-roaring time. How could politicians get anything out of Halloween if they can't really let themselves go?
But as a writer, I believe in revision. Maybe I couldn't send invitations to a traditional Halloween party. But I could, I realized, send invitations to a new kind of Halloween party. A party with no expectations of fun.
Here it is:
When: Oct. 31, 7 p.m. to midnight.
What to wear: The lives of your most reviled scapegoats.
Where: Various locations, each relevant to the costume you are wearing.
What to do: Be them. See what it's like to be an inner-city girl whose only hope for respect is motherhood. Or a gay shopkeeper whose only hope for respect is to come out to his customers. Or a senior citizen whose only hope for health is to skip dinner so she can pay for her heart pills.
Party favors: Insight and compassion.
R.S.V.P.: Attendance mandatory.
It seems improbable that I'll get any takers on this. But we work all the time at trying to understand them. Maybe we ought to set aside a special holiday to take them away from their desks and away from the reporters, to put them into contemplation and shove them into the world, to give them the appearances and circumstances and pain and suffering to try - for just one night - to finally, and fully, come to understand us.