Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
If you think it's been a tough two weeks for Bert Lance, imagine how his wife, LaBelle, feels about it. "I don't want people to feel sorry for us," said Mrs. Lance, who with her husband was one of the first to arrive for Wednesday night's State Department dinner hosted by Secretary of State Cyrus vance for the 280 U.S. ambassadors and other visiting delegates who didn't make it to the White House.
"In fact, the stronger the attacks get," continued Mrs. Lance on the patio off the Thomas Jefferson Room, "the stronger I feel. Do I think Bert will have to resign? No, not at this point.Once Bert is listened to the charges, I'm sure, will be all cleared up."
For his part the budget director, who kept pulling at his wife's sleeve, did not seem at all anxious for her to be talking to the press. Nonetheless, Mrs. Lance ignored him long enough to comment on her reported bank overdrafts.
"Oh, listen, hovey, that had nothing to do with me personally. That had to do with a political overdraft, but that money was really in the bank anyway, only under another name. No, no, honey, it wasn't like a wif ebeing overdrawn or anything."
Meanwhile, Bert Lance himself appeared guaardedly calm, maintaining that he "had had a good week" and would under no circumstances resign. In fact, he said, "I haven't thought about it at all and the President has not brought it up."
Presidential assistant Hamilton Jordan, who actually got out of his wind-breaker and into a conservative navy blue suit for the evening, dittoed Lance's claim. "No ma'am, the President is not going to ask him to resign by the end of the week. In fact, I'm going out there on the patio right now and have a drink with him if I can find me a beer around this place. Listen, the man deserves a chance to be heard and that's what we're going to give him."
And how long might that chance last?
"Well," replied Jordan, scooping up a glass of white wine in lieu of the beer, "Bert goes before the Senate next week. But I will never believe he ever purposely did anything to dupe anybody. Bert's only going to be in trouble if they're able to prove he did anything wrong.You can't know things in advance that aren't true. But, that's all I have to say about that.
"Hey, did you notice the TV people didn't introduce Rockfeller on air tonight at the signing? I guess they didn't want him to flip the bird to the American people, huh," giggled Jordan before darting away to corner Pamela Harriman for a chat.
Meanwhile, Secretary of the Army Clifford Alexander waxed on joyously Panama Canal treaties. "Do you realize there isn't one country in the world who isn't on the other side of this issue? Russia and Cuba are the only countries who will be happy if we don't have the treaty."
However, Rep. David Bowen (D-Miss.) said he ahd told President Carter in a meeting earlier this week that as far as the South was concerned the treaty ratification "is the most explosive issue since gun control, so please go slow.
"But then," added Bowen, "I also said I though he had about as much chance of getting that treaty approved as I though he had of getting elected president and look how wrong that was."
Meanwhile, the other guests included White House Appointments Secretary Tim Kraft, Secretay of Defense Harold Brown, the National Urban League's Vernon Jordan and William Seranton. California Rep. Pete McCloskey, with Amber Scholtz, his legislative assistant and date for the evening, stayed only for the pre-dinner reception.
"My boss just had an extra ticket for tonight so he brought me along," said Scholtz, who denied that she and McCloskey were a duno.
"I never get romantically involved with people I work for," added Scholtz, who did say, however, that, "Pete is one of the most actige bachelors around town in his own quiet way. Any Sunday just check the canoes on the Potomac or the bicycle trail or the backpacking paths and you'll find him with a different girl every time."