RECENTLY, THERE was a bit of a dust-up at the White House because Secret Service uniformed guards wore rubber gloves when 50 gay elected officials paid a visit there.
The White House had to apologize, but so far no one has come up with an explanation as to why the guards took such extraordinary measures.
My visit to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue raised more questions than it answered.
As a precaution I wore rubber gloves when I showed my pass.
The guard looked at me suspiciously and asked, "Why are you wearing rubber gloves?"
I winked at him. "You know as well as I do. You can never tell who you're going to shake hands with around here."
He let me in and I started moseying around. I asked another guard, "Why do Secret Service guards wear rubber gloves?"
He replied, "Because of the squirrels -- they are always eating out of our hands."
"What about the lobbyists?"
"The White House staff members are always eating out of their hands. We don't want to get infected by them either."
It sounded like a good reason, but not good enough.
Another uniformed officer, who was wearing not only rubber gloves but also a face mask, said, "You never know when you might get infected with Lyme disease by a visiting head of state."
"Then you didn't wear the rubber gloves because you had gay visitors to the White House?"
"That would be insanity and also show prejudice against a certain group of people. Rubber gloves have always been part of the Secret Service uniform. They go extremely well in parades with our blue uniform. They also look very smart when you're saluting the president.
"Whoever says we wear gloves to make a statement about homosexuality doesn't know what he's talking about."
The nearer I got to the White House administration the more embarrassed everyone seemed to be.
One White House spokesman said, "If people handling food in restaurants are required to wear rubber gloves, why shouldn't Secret Service police wear them when handling tourists?"
"I didn't know it was that unhealthy handling tourists."
"Have you seen some of them lately?"
I tried to shake hands in my rubber gloves with congressmen and senators who had just seen the president, but they kept backing away.
"What are you afraid of?" I asked one gay-bashing congressman.
"Why are you wearing rubber gloves?" he asked. "Do you have a horrible disease?"
"All the guards are doing it," I protested.
"How do I know they're not sick, too?"
Art Buchwald is a syndicated columnist.