The thing that struck me as President Carter announced Bert Lance's resignation was when he said that he was losing his best friend.
Everyone at the White House admits that Bert Lance had a special rapport with the President, and that he was the only person who could tell Mr. Carter when he was wrong or off the track. This role in the White House is not to be underestimated.
It is so important that I believe before we find a new head of the OMB, we must find President Carter a new best friend.
This country can afford to go along without somebody managing its budget, but it cannot allow the President of the United States to sit in the White House without a best friend for one more day than is absolutely necessary.
I would go one step further and say a new position in the White House should be created entitled. "The President's Best Friend." The person filling the position would have as his only function to be Mr. Carter's confidant and bosom buddy.
This would avoid any conflict of interest with another job in the administration. More importantly, the person holding it would not have to undergo the scrutiny and heat that Mr. Lance was subjected to, because he also was head of the Office of Management and Budget.
Since "The President's Best Friend" would be on the White House staff, he would not need Senate confirmation. And, while he would be expected to maintain the high moral standards Mr. Carter has set for all his people, he would not have to dispose of his stock or reveal his personal finances to the public.
He would have to answer to no one on the Hill as to what he did before he came into the administration, nor would he have to reveal how much money he had in the bank, or owed banks, whichever the case might be.
Neither the FBI nor the IRS would have to be consulted as to whether he was qualified to be "The President's Best Friend," because only a President would know that.
I think that the search for a new best friend for the President should begin immediately.
It is my opinion that, from what we know about President Carter, we should start looking for someone who comes from the South, preferably a small town in Georgia. He doesn't necessarily have to be a banker, but he should be a successful businessman. He must have an impeccable family relationship, be a nondrinker and a good storyteller. He should be gregarious, while at the same time firm when he believes Mr. Carter is wrong. He should also be able to play tennis and softball and know something about the peanut business.
It wouldn't be hard to find such a person to fill the job. I know thousands of people who would like to be the President's best friend. Many of them could persuaded to come to Washington, at great sacrifice to themselves, for the opportunity to chew the fat with Mr. Carter whenever he needed someone to talk to.
While the White House could set up a "Best Friend Search Committee," the final decision would be left solely to the President after his staff presented him with a list of likely candidates.
To safeguard himself against another Lance affair, I believe that, besides appointing his "Best Friend." Mr. Carter should also have the authority to designate a "Deputy Best Friend." Then if anything happens to his best friend, the President would have another one to fall back on.
President Kennedy and Johnson had many best friends. Nixon had only one - Bebe Rebozo. At the moment President Carter has none. Unless this situation is rectified immediately, the country could come to a standstill.
While the search is on I am sending President Carter a copy of "How To Be Your Own Best Friend." It isn't the same as having Bert Lance, but hopefully it will fill the gap.