Hugh Carter Jr., President Carter's cousin once removed and White House special assistant for administration, is the hatchet man of privilege. He thrives on ways to cut back on the "perks," or perquisites - those little signs of privilege - that go along with working at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
After the stories of disappearing television sets, limousines dispatched to the graveyard and restrictions on newspaper and magazine subscriptions the White House staff is now allowed, one expects to meet a gnarled, Scrooge who delights in Picayne. Yet, at 34, the blue-eyed Carter known as "Cousin cheap" - comes across most obviously as the earnest, low-keyed businessman he once was.
Sitting in his second-floor White House office, opposite his own television set Carter emphasizes that newly banished privileges will not creep back into the executive branch.
"They won't get back, I guarantee that," he says, explaining, however, that a few sets have already fund their way back into the offices of "those who have demonstrated a need.
"The congressional liaison has two, one for the House and one for the Senate, for watching news broadcasts. The others, like mine, are used for the audio portions of the news briefings which the White House communications office tapes. At last count, there were about 60 sets."
When the Carter people moved into the White House, there were some 300 television sets distributed throughout the mansion and its auxiliary offices.
If all this acitivity seems grist for the administration-mocking "Secretary of Symbolism" in Doonesbury, Hugh Carter doensn't take it any less seriously.
Carter goes on to explain that while getting rid of the sets produces a wavings from the point of view of repair and maintenance, the "big purpose was democratization.We just want to keep folks from getting too doggone exclusive."
The seduction by and collection of perquisites has grown with the presidency since the Franklin Roosevelt years. During the Nixon years they became the merit badges of the strivers of 1600 Pennsylvania and their loss was a public humiliation.
In his book "Blind Ambition," John Dean recounts how he began his work as counselor to the President in a shabby office that needed painting and was filled with furniture that "looked like military discards." After months of aggressive work, Dean gained H. R. Haldeman's notice and approval and "I was soon enjoying some of the coveted White House status symbols," a daily copy of the President's news summary, a new 12-line telephone in place of my two-line model, subscriptions to more magazines and newspapers than I wanted, and Army Signal Corps telephone in my home (on which I could call London faster than I could dial next door), and carte blanche to redecorate an impressive new office."
To keep the White House aides in touch with the real world and away from the trappings of power, the rustic retreat at Camp David, once available to staff under previous administrations, is currently restricted to the First Family. Aides who make the trek are along, Carter says, because the President needs them for work. Access to the White House tennis court is available to all after the request is cleared through the President's office. The presidential boxes at each of the Kennedy Center theaters are equally available, he said, on a first-come, first-served basis.
Carter has gotten rid of the 32 button telephones that used to grace staff member's desks. He requires justification of the number of staff traveling on White House business and the mode. Refurbishing of offices is frowned on by Carter, who once was presented with a request for a $700 bulletin board and turned it down until the cost reached a little over $100. He has cut back on the number of newspapers and magazines once delivered to the White House to the tune of $80,000. Their cost is now in the $25,000 range.
Such economies may appear small when compared to President Carter's pay increase for most of this aides last month - a figure totaling $400,000 a year and averaging 20 per cent per aide.
Though some staffers, like Jim Bishop, assistant to the office to energy's James Schlesinger, maintain that Carter's perk filching doesn't bother staff members because "most of us never had any anyway," there has been some grousing about cutbacks.
One staffer who is now sharing newspapers with several other White House workers complains that his shared newspapers arrive in shreds because "everyone tears out the articles they want before passing on the paper."
And while there may be huzzahs in the husings over the democratization of the White House, the demise of old status symbols has led, in the straightened atmosphere, to the rise of new ones.
"One of the things I notice when I walk around the White House offices is who has IBM Selectric typewriters," grumbles another staff member. "They are a real status symbol since the rest of us are stuck with the Executive model, which is a pain to deal with when you have to back space."
The cutbacks have also brought barter to the White House. Confronted with a "by order of Hugh Carter" freeze on yellow legal pads, one White House menion has taken to swapping information with various agencies based on how many legal pads he can get in return.
And then there are the staff passes. As Alexis de Tocqueville once commented, "Americans start out equal and spend the rest of their lives trying to be unequal." So goes the situation at 160. A green staff pass leaves the bearer free to come and go between the White House and Executive Office Building. Bearers of orange staff passes are restricted to the EOB and have to call up the White House to be cleared before they can walk into the other building. The ultimate access, limited to the special assistants and assistants, however, is to have no pass at all. For these privileged ones, no indication of who they are is needed since their pictures are on file at each of the Executive Protection Service stations.
All these small perquisites of power or lack of them, have not made Hugh Carter the favorite man around the White House. 'Nobody's called him a son of anything," says the bartering staffer, "but a lot of people have thrown up their hands when they see his memos."
None of the hand throwing has deterred Carter in the least. Like his cousin, the President, who once confessed to Sen. Alan Cransotn during a campaign jaunt that he'd better deimperialize the executive office before he got to like the trappings of power, Hugh Carter has the orderly set of mind of a technician. Though his appointment by the President provoked suspicions of nepotism and questions about his qualifications for the job, Carter has a well-grounded business background that includes an industrial engineering degree from Georgia Institue of Technology, a master's degree from Wharton School of Business and Finance at the University of Pennsylvania and 8 1/2 years with the John H. Harlan Co., the second largest check-printing firm in the country. At Harlan, he became vice President and managed three of the company's plants.
Of all the White House staff, Carter probably knows the President best. As a boy growing up in Plains, he remembers the future President coming home from the Navy, leading a local Boy Scout troop and teaching Sunday School at the family's church. And like his cousin, Carter considers himself "director and honest. A straight shooter."
They are qualities that John C. Hendricks, a childhood friend of Carter's who runs an insurance agency in Auburn, Ala., also remembers about him. Hendricks and Carter hung out together as children in Plains, fishing in Kinchafoonee Creek for pan fish and boiling peanuts in their families, "wash pots."
"He won't pull any punches with you. He's compassionate, but he's also the kind of person that if you need a kick in the pants, he'd do it," says Hendricks.
Carter once ambushed Hendricks with shaving cream after Hendricks had unnecessarily sent him around the stadium from his seats at an Auburn Georgia Tech football game.
"He loves to pull pranks, especially on his two younger sisters, Connie and Laurie," says Hendricks."But about football, he's serious."
Herb Upton, a college and fraternity friend of Carter's who is one of his assistants in the White House, sees similar lofty qualities in Carter.
"He sticks to his guns, when he feels he's right," says Upton, recalling Carter's service on the college Interfraternity Council board and his ruling to fine a fraternity for burning down the party decorations of another fraternity. "There was a lot of pressure on him from individuals and groups to reverse the decision, but when he knows he's right, he'll stick to his guns. He's pretty smooth at enforcing rules without ruffling feathers, a quality he needs in his present job."
Everything has not always been as smooth. After seven years of marriage to Joan Carter, a social worker in Louisville, Carter found himself a bachelor aganin four years ago in Florida.
"He was very philosophical," says Marty Beaman, a lawyer friend of Carter's from Orlando. "We both suddenly found ourselves single again after we'd thought of marriage as being forever. Sonny (his family nickname) is not a superficial person. He develops relationships with few people."
One of the few people Carter is close to other than family and longtime friends is Glenna Garrett, a Delta airlines stewardess whom he has dated for several years. But there is little time for dating or socializing, usually confined to a drop-in-for-dinner at the Uptons with their two children, now that Carter is in the White House.
"We've just about looked at all the perks," says Carter. "My job will more and more be with the management of resources." Carter has a study going on to broaden the membership of the White House mess and one on the availability of Camp David to White House staff.
The mess is still restricted to 125 because, according to Carter, that's the capacity the physical space will allow.
"The idea is to get away from the club atmosphere that it had in the past," he says, noting that now a mess member is allowed to take another staffer as a guest. He says that top senior staff can no longer order a tray from the mess and have it brought to them, although he thinks "most of the things we've done in the mess haven't saved that much."
Indeed, sometimes the moves to democratize and demystify the White House may even run counter to economies.
The daily news summaries, which are a condensation of newspaper and network news, have been restricted to 150 people including the top aides, the President and Cabinet officials. Others who need it, according to Claudia Townsend, who is editor of the news summary, are encouraged to share it or duplicate it - a process that can often be more costly than merely providing an original.
Meanwhile, staffers who have arrived at the ultimate address, will continue to hoard legal pads, covet typewriters, discover the common joys of car-pooling and a shared newspaper and throw up their hands at the memos from Hugh Carter Jr.