Picture the second most powerful man in Washington, the advisor closetto the incoming President. He is standing in the lobby of the L'Enfant Plaza Hotel. He is wearing a navy windbreaker, a plaid flannel shirt, corduroy trousers and boots. He is chewing gum. He looks like a high school foot-ball player on a class field trip to Washington.
"I always dress s - y this way," he shrugs. Then grins. "Uh oh. Guess I'll have to start cleaning up my act now that I'm in Washington."
His aide, dressed similarly, who looks like Art Garfunkel and is named Bill Simon, stands next to him with a list of things to review.
"Who's this guy?" asks Simon, pointing to a name. "Is he okay or is he a flake?"
They want to know about your office in the EOB," says Simon. "Where do you want it?"
"Oh, I don't care, anywhere they have space."
Let's just say Hamilton Jordan is going to be different. No three-piece gray pin-stripe suits and tie pins, no self-important executive demeanor, no entourage, no playing the establishment game. That's really the important thing. No games.
In his 32 years Hamilton Jordan has rarely done anything any other way but his own.
Not when he ran Jimmy Carter's gubernatorial campaign, and not when he ran his presidential campaign, any more than he will when he becomes President Carter's right-hand man.
"I'm sure people up here think that 'the inside' is wherever we are. I'm not sure I'm on the inside. I haven't been to a cocktail party or a dinner party yet. I'm not going to do a lot of that. I don't have time. I don't plan to be a part of the Washington scene. There's just not time to do my work and also do a lot of socializing. But maybe a year from now I'll be introducing new dance steps in Georgetown."
There is just a trace of antagonism in his voice when the subject of "Washington" comes up. And a sense of uneasiness too, a trait unexpected in Hamilton Jordan. It's as though "Washington" emitted a powerful aphrodisiac which, once taken, would leave one permanently addicted, as if "Washington" were frightening Shangri-la of power which, once visited, would leave one forever seduced.
So he keeps making jokes about how maybe in a year -
He admits that during the campaign "there certainly was in the country an anti-Washington sentiment which was very real and which we used to political advantage." Though he will say, too, that "I don't mix that sentiment with my feeling for the city. I love Washington. There are a hell of a lot of good people in government here just like in Georgia."
He is sitting now on an oversized sofa in the lobby of the hotel waiting for lunch. He orders an orange juice from the waitress, who is dressed in a sleeveless black evening dress.
"God, that girl has big shoulders," he remarks almost to himself, then turns back to the interview, comfortable, unpretentious.
"Maybe," he says thoughtfully, "there's a chance we'll all find some allure and we'll fall into that. Maybe some of us will. But it's difficult for me to identify the Henry Kissinger of our group. Bert Lance, maybe? No," he decides. "He doesn't drink. Maybe the Washington social scene will turn us into social gad abouts . . . My plan is to do my work with minimal social activity. Hell, my idea of a good time is to go out with Jody (Powell) and Jerry (Rafshoon) for a pizza and I don't even have time to do that."
"The things that kinda grates on me is that I don't want to be a social object. Especially the idea of being invited to a party just because I work at the White House."
Later he will bring up the matter of the Gridiron, Washington's prestigious journalists social club whoch only recently began admitting women and blacks.
Jordan got invited and never accepted and never went.
"I just forgot I was invited and fogot to answer," he says. "Everybody said, 'Oh, you've got to go to the Gridiron. And I don't plead guilty to feeling bad 'cause I should've been there.
"I only wish I had remembered, so I could've made not going an act of conscience." He laughs, then seems annoyed again.
"I just resent having to deal with people in this town at social things like the Gridiron. Maybe I should just hire somebody to go to all the parties for me. Maybe Jimmy ought to appoint a "Social Vice President" just to do that. This is just not what I worked for four years for." He pauses, gives his chewing gum a few good whacks and looks up at the waitress who has come to announce that the table for lunch is ready.
"I don't know," he says, "Maybe in a few years y'all will write that I've been seduced by the social scene."
The Jordans have just bought a house on E Street on Capitol Hill, a small house which Nancy Jordan, 31, picked out herself. She is moving in this week and it is there that she will probably spend a considerable amount of time . . . alone. But it won't be a novelty for her. Their whole married life had been a life apart, theirs is a marriage born out of a campaign, theirs will be a typical Washington marriage.
"Please puts Nancy's name in the article," pleads Jordan in an uncharacteristically serious way. "Nobody ever does, and she accuses me of not telling them I'm married. please put it in and say I insisted.
"It would make my life a lot easier at home.
"I'll coach for the interview," he says. "Ah jess Iuvvvvvv Hamilton and Ah jess Iuvvvvvv Jimmeh and Rosalynn," he jokes! "I don't know though. It might take me longer than this week."
Being married to Hamilton Jordan could be difficult. Not because he's not attractive. That's just the problem. It could be hard for a wife to sit alone and know that her attractive husband is on the loose and in power in a town where power is even more appealing than being cute. Not only that, he is so devoted to his work and seems so uninterested in home life that you wonder when they see each other at all.
But Nancy Jordan doesn't see it that way.
Nancy Jordan seems to be that special kind of Southern woman who always puts a good face on everything, makes the best of things. She's very much like Rosalynn Carter in that sense - sweet, sincere, earnest, self-effacing, but tough and dedicated. It's not an act. It comes from years of determination and training.
Nancy Jordan is a Southern sweetheart, a sorority girl - Kappa Delta at the University of Georgia - pretty, but not really beautiful.Nicely turned out, fresh, good haircut, well made up. She talks carefully, choosing her words, her answers as though she were answering the question in the Miss America contest.She is or hopes she is, prepared, even steeled, for her life in Washington.
It will be her job, as she sees it, to create a happy, comfortable, well-run home for the President's closest advisor. And if she has to take a back seat, do only volunteer work, well, she's prepared for that, too.
Nancy and Hamilton met first at the University, where her sorority sister was engaged to his fraternity brother at Phi Delt.They dated casually, then didn't see each other until he came back from Vietnam and they both started working for Jimmy Carter. She was teaching retarted children. After about a year, in 1970, they were married in the midst of Carter gubernatorial campaign and Nancy Jordan quit her job as a teacher to work as a full-time volunteer. After the campaign she worked - for pay - for six months for Rosalynn Carter in the governor's mansion, and she eventually went to work on Carter's presidential campaign as a volunteer. She hasn't decided what she will do in Washington except to say she hopes to work as a volunteer with Rosalynn Carter in the area of mental health.
"Hamilton would probably have me say all I wanted to do was have his shirts clean for him," she says with a rare burst of laughter.
And she doesn't mind not getting paid." As a volunteer I'm able to come and go when Hamilton needs me or I'm free to travel with him if he goes somewhere."
At the moment she is busy setting into their new house, where she did not want to be interviewed. (She chose his office, instead)
"I really wanted to get the house really for him," she says. Hamilton, she says, "is not a very tidy person. But he hasn't changed and I don't expect him to. It was hard during the campaign when we both worked, trying to get his super or his clothes cleaned. But I don't mind doing it. Occasionally during the campaign I'd have a weekend to clean up the house and I enjoyed it. I think I'm prepared for the long hours in Washington." She pauses for a moment. "I've never known anything else. Oh, there are times I think it would be great to go on a vacation or have a super together."
"Our life is kind of disjointed now," Jordan admits. "We've been through the campaign and it's no worse now than it has been the last two or three years. During the election I very seldom got hom before midnight. Nancy's prepared for that part of it. It won't be any easier on her here.
"She 'll keep busy," he says, as if anxious to discuss this particular problem . "She and (congressional liaison) Frank Moore's wife are good friends, so there are some (friends) here."
And about the house: "She just went out looking. Went out in about five minutes and bought it." Did he care where they live?" "Not much." And when he's at home will be help with the housewife? "Nope." Then, just a teensy bit defensive, "But that's not a sexual quality, it's just that I'm not there." Then a teensy bit defiant, "But I wouldn't do it anywhere. I don't do crap like that." Then a little reflective, "Jimmy's much better about that. He cooks and cleans up. We'd have a messy house if Nancy didn't do it. But she's as neat as I am sloppy."
If he weren't married now, would he do it again" "I can't really answer that. Nancy and I were . . . still are very close. I didn't feel any kind of pressure to get married. It was my idea. I went steady with girls in highs school and college and I dated a lot too.A little of both." He shrugs. "Sometimes when you're married you want to be single and vice versa."
Though he says he've never had a major setback or disappointment in his life, his wife has in hers. Only a few weeks ago she had a miscarriage, losing their first baby. But again, like the strong Southern woman she is, she is not going to let it get her down. "We both love children," she says with a smile. "I don't think there'll ever be a perfect time for us to have them, but we want to, as long as they're nice healthy babies."
Nancy Jordan, like her husband, is neither especially materialistic nor particularly social. She says quite simply., "Work doesn't allow it. And Jimmy and Hamilton's work is only going to increase."
When she does have some free time, she says, her idea of the perfect evening is "having super with Hamilton and watching TV. I don't think it takes a whole lot to make either of us happy. We're very simple people."
When they are alone, she says, they do talk to each other.But mainly, she says, "I feel very safe with him. We have a nice relationship. We're happy. He's a cut-up. He's funny and clever. I'm quite proud of him. He's a smart dedicated persons. We both have the same goals . . . working for Jimmy."
As for the woman who surround powerful men in campaigns and in a city like Washington, she says, "I thought about that during the campaign. I want people to know there's a Nancy Jordan, that I am there and that I am involved. Oh," she says, flushing, "I'm sure Hamilton will be able to enjoy cutting-up. But I don't think it will bother us too much. With this kind of work there's got to be trust."
He says he hasn't been all that plagued with groupies though he definitely has an eye for the ladies and clearly notices and appreciates women, and he'll tell you, "Jimmy likes woman, too." The waitresses in their low-cut dresses, other women in the restaurant. Jordan knows how to flirt, too. Asked if he is gregarious he'll laugh with me for a few minutes?" As for the worries in Washington: "I'm ready," he says with a grin.
Ask him how much he thinks about women, "oh, about 51.3 per cent," he'll any, referring to the name of Carter's campaign women's program. Then, "Mary King (head of the "51.3 per cent" program) and kill me." Then more seriously, "I think about it. I hired a black woman in Georgia and she worked for 2 1/2 years in my office.
"She stayed on my a - about putting blacks and women in office, and the pressure made us sensitive to the issues." He is sure, however, that he does have male-chauvinist qualities. "I'm sure I do, and I doubt there are very few men in the world who would satisfy the movement. I can see areas where is a need for improvement myself. I probably have some problem in that area in terms of personal relationships. Now that I think of it, when I named my closest friends they were all men." there seems to be a moment of penitence and then he perks up and says optimistically, "We're all tryin'."
But Nancy Jordan says she's never noticed that her husband treats her any differently than he treats other women.
"I've just seen him involved withn ladies in the campaign and he seems to treat them the same way. But if he were to walk in the house and start washing the dishes I would immediately call a doctor."
Nancy Jordian is just a little apprehensive about coming to Washington despite her optimism. "I can't really say I like changing. But there are good people everywhere. If you get your goals high, things always seem to work well. I'm getting there." Yet if you ask her what her greatest personal wish, her dream, is says, "I wish for this to be a good administration and for all the promises Jimmy made to be kept."
Almost anybody who knows Hamilton Jordon (pronounced "Jerdan," for those who still don't know) will tell you he's flip. That he'll almost never let you inside, that he keeps people at a distance by his offhand manner and his quiet sense of humor.
But Hamilton Jordan is like many Southern men in that respect. Like Jimmy Carter for that matter. Most Southern men don't come on strong, and people, or rather non-Southerns, often have a tendency to underestimate them for that reason. To think they aren't smart because they speak softly that have [WORDS ILLEGIBLE] manners. But anybody who would underestimate Hamilton Jordan - and many have - is making a big mistakes.
He says, I'll not an intellectual. I prefer the word "smart". I'm not threatened by people who are smarter. I don't wish I were this guy or that guy. I'm self-confident about who I am, what I am, what I want." And he understands exactly what people mean when they say he's flip. And he's likes it. And it makes him laugh.
"Generally it's better for people to underestimate you than to overestimate you. Maybe I do try to deal with people in a superficial way until I get into a close relationship where I reveal my real feelings. I've never thought of that as being a particularly masculine trait, but maybe it is."
He orders another orange juice from a Vietnamese waitress - in Vietnanese.
Jordan lived in Vietnam for two years working for the International Voluntary Service, a refugee relocation organization. He joined the service after Carter's first (unsuccessful) gubernatorial campaign in 1966 partly because he didn't want to do military service, partly because he wanted something more adventurous than just a desk job and too, as he says, because he loves being around children.
Jordan says he may be due for a major disappointment or setback in his life, something he says he's never experienced. "Jimmy was a lot better governor personally because he was defeated the first time in '66. When you have a failure or a disappointment you end up being a better person. Who knows, may'be I'll get in the White House and do a poor job, disappoint him, mess it up."
Jordan is built like an athlete, with dark hair and quiet dark eyes and he has an aloofness about him that belies any emotionalism.
"I believe that probably men that are sensitive and have real strong emotions would probably tend to disguise them a bit. Those are usually described as feminine qualities, and that might be why I do it. I think of myself as a man. Strong and tough - so I try to disguise the emotions and the feelings I have. I am emotional. I care deeply about things and people."
Personal friends. Jordan talks about them a lot. They are important to him. His best friend, he says, is a resident in obstetrics at Stanford. "I'm closer to him than anybody in the world. If I didn't see him for 15 years we'd still be as close. It's the same with Jerry [WORD ILLEGIBLE] and I. We're the closest of friends. Jody and I are close, but it evolved through the campaign. That's always been a business relationship but it's still close. Pat Caddell and Tim Kraft are good friends. And more recently I'm starting to feel very close to (Vice President-elect) Mondale. He's a classy guy. Loose, easy."
Jordan says he likes people who are "loose."
"I like people who are serious about things but I don't take themselves too seriously. That's the thing about the people around the Carter. While all of us take what we do seriously, we don't take ourselves that seriously."
"Jimmy," says Jordan of his boss, has "a delightful sense of humor. I wish he'd use it more in the way Kennedy used his. It would help him to explain things. But it conflicts wwith his idea of discipline - being on the right plane - being in the right place on time. Maybe now that he's president, in the next four years he can relax."
Certainly Hamilton Jordan can be described as loose. And, except for detecting that he is smart, it is not readily evident what it is about him Carter finds so valuable.
"My antennae," he says. "I have very good antennae. If there's one thing I can do well I can judge people, I can size people up. That's important in a political campaign. And of course you've got to make a lot of other judgements, too. Jimmy is very difficult to work for. He's difficult to deal with but you always know where you stand. He'll say, 'Why the hell did you screw that up?' But he doesn't hold things bacn and explode later. You always know how he feels and there's no question of do you level with him. And that's the way he'll deal with the Cabinet. I'm not that way. I'm direct, but probably not as blunt as I could be or should be. Though I am more so that I was 'cause I've worked with Carter."
He smiles and blinks his eyes in a teasingly innocent way. "I'm a nice guy . . . to a point. I can be tough when I have to.I really am. I'm a nice guy. I'm not a crook." A grin. "I don't relish confrontation. But more often than not the people who work for me like and respect me more than feat me. And I'd like to give you the names of those who like me, to interview.
"Jimmy sees in me someone who is committed to him in a general way in the things he wants to do, and committed to him in a personal way in that I'm a person he can trust to execute things. I would handle things the way he would. I've learned from him to sit down, look ahead, stay one step ahead of him, lay out plans, devise and execute plans. He doesn't know I'm planning to leave the government after a few years. Whent he reads this he'll probably say, 'Sit down and write me plan for your departure."
There are those who have written and those who truly believe that Hamilton Jordon is not ideological. that he has no political beliefs. He says that's not true. But it is easy to see what they mean. "I don't have a lot of axes to grind in terms of issues, " she says. My commitment is to Jimmy and what he stands for. I don't like to get into the details of programs and issues. I trust him to do the right things. Of course there are some things I disagree with, but not generally. And I don't personally reexamine his positions all the time.
"The issues," he says, "are not my interest, I don't study them. I don't consider myself well informed on these things. I don't do it well. I'm not a good guy on tax reform or health insurance to talk to. But I'm good to plan the strategy to help push through those issues. But Carter doesn't need staff guys to fill him in on details of issues. He studies these things himself to the point where he's comfortable with them, then the staff will come into it. And he doesn't operate exclusively through any one of us. He's always had a team approach to people. People say it's not going to work. That Carter will have to have a Chief of Staff. But I disagree. I am - and all of us are - secure in our relationship with Jimmy.
Hamilton Jordan is known as a tough political in-fighter and in a recent, highly publicized power struggle wokn out over transition officer Jack Watson. "He (Jordan) knows how to progect himself," says Jerald Rafshon. Jordan detractors say he can't stand having people around who are smarter than he or whom he suspects of trying to usurp his position with Carter. But those in the know suggest it would be ridiculous for anyone to even try to edge Jordan out in terms of his relationship with Carter.
Jordan, others close to Carter will tell you, had a degree of autonomy and independence during the campaign not enjoyed by most others. Jordan is known for his mode of operation which is working at home and never coming to the office at all. His inaccessibility is becoming legend. A story going around holds that recently when Democratic Party chief Bob Strauss wanted to get Jordan on the phone he called Carter . . . who Strauss to Jordan.
Jordan says he likes the idea of being a leader, mainly in order to develop other people, putting them in positions and watching them succeed; but his eyes widen with dismay at the idea of ever running for President himself. "Oh, no, hell no, they'll never get a shot at me," he says. "Not the people of this country, not the people of Georgia. I'll never run for anything. And that is a solemn promise. God, you see all the creeps you have to put up with. Most people who work for politicians, even if they start off with political ambitions lose them. It's a rough life. It doesn't appeal to me at all."
He is, in fact, so turned off by politics that he has decided to get away from it fairly soon."I don't plan to stay here eight years. I doubt I'll stay four years. I may eat those word in a campaign again. I think it's really important to walk away some day. I look at some of these Kennedy people who are still around. It's very sad to see them all looking back, reliving those days. I'd hate to think that at 36 I'd be reliving my years in Washington. I hope I'll be strong enought to walk away.
"I don't know what I'll do. I'd like to write. I think I've got some raw talent. It frightens me a little though. I'm not sure what I'd write, I enjoy it. I'm not very articulate. I express myself better in writing."
He's not sure he's going to like being in government. "I'm very competitive," he says. "And I think there's a sporting quality to a campaign, that's a fight, and that's more enjoyable to me than trying to run a government. Now there's not time to have fun or even reflect on what you're doing."
And of course, as he will readily admit, administrative details drive him crazy. "I'm a mess.
"I'm not well organized personally but I have enough sense to have people around me who are. I'm a good manager."
Making a lot of money has never been a big thing in Jordan. He was brought up in a middle-class family in Albany, Ga., his father a successful insurance man. He never had lots of it, but the lack of it was never a problem either at the University of Georgia where he admittedly took "five-and-a-half fun-filled years" to graduate, nor later when he returned from Vietnam to work for Carter in the latter's second and successful bid for the Georgia governorship.
He says he'd like to travel, and the place he longs to go most is Spain. "I know I'd like that, the lifestyle. Slow. Easy. Loose." Yet he has chosen the most rigorous, unslow, uneasy, unloose lifestyle now. Why?
"I like both things. You'll have to figure that out. Besides," he says with glee, "I like to throw a wringer in there."
He seems the kind of person who is not bogged down by trivia, an unvaluable trait for someone who must deal with so much of it each day. But sometimes it gets to him. "There's just not enough time to spend on things," he says. "I just don't go over to my office at HEW any more. Haven't been there for weeks. It's a jungle. The pressures get to you. You don't see any light at the end of the tunnel. I get a couple of hundred phone calls a day. I should answer 50. I probably return 10 or 15. People say, 'Who is this kid who stayed in my house in Iowa during the campaign? He should be able to return my call.'
"The key," he says finally, decisively, in his soft drawl, "is to prioritize."
He insists, as he orders yet another orange juice and chats with the waitress in Vietnamese, that he hasn't been carried away by the whole thing. "I have to think of the position I have, so that I can distinguish me from the responsibility involved in a while it'll kind of hit me. New Year's Day when I went down to Plains there were 30 or 40 press people waiting for me. The idea of my coming to Plains being a news event . . ." Could it be there was nothing else going on? He sees nomentarily taken aback. He recovers. "Wait a second. Maybe you're right . . . I hope not.
"I am put off by people trying to use their relationship with me to help them," he says.
"I will say what really drives me crazy, really turns me off, is all this to a toadying. I'm not self-righteous about it. I know people have problems and needs and they see me as somebody who can help them. It's been happening, though, in bits and pieces. Maybe after two years in the White House I'll be the most arrogant son of a bitch you ever saw."