A few weeks ago President Carter called two Washington correspondents, Hedrick Smith of The New York Times and Jack Nelson of The Los Angeles Times, and spent a long time on the phone explaining how close he was to Vice President Walter Mondale and also how hard he, Mr. Carter, was working in the White House.
When the President of the United States calls a newspaperman to explain what he's doing it makes you a big man in this town.
Since then every newspaperman has had a fantasy that he or she will get the next call from the President.
I have to confess that I too, have been dreaming about it in my fantasy Jody Powell goes into Mr. Carter's office and says, "You better calll Buchwall. He's got it all wrong concerning your position on the three-martini lunch."
The fantasy has become so real that things have become pretty rough around my house.
The first night I said to my wife, "Any telephone calls for me?"
"The Volvo service people called and said it would cost $321 to fix your car."
"I don't mean that kind of call. Have there been any from a high government official?"
"Why would a high government official want to call you?"
"Well, if you must know I'm expecting to hear from the President of the United States."
She started to laugh.
"It's not a joke," I said angrily. "He's starting to call newspapermen in this town and he might be doing it alphabetically."
"If he does call," she said, still giggling, "should I say you're here?"
"Of course, you can tell him I'm here. You don't tell the President of the United States your husband isn't home when he is. And don't tie up the phone for the next two weeks talking to your sister."
The next night I found my son on the phone speaking to a girl friend.
"How long has he been talking?" I asked my wife.
"About an hour."
"That's just great," I said, "The President of the United States is probably trying to call me and he can get is busy signal."
"I'm sure if the President was trying to get you the White House would interrupt the call."
"Well, tell him to get off."
My wife said to my son, "Finish the call. Your father is expecting to get one from the President."
My son said to his girl, "I have to hang up now. My dad is waiting to hear from President Carter.
" . . . I'm not trying to get off the line. That's what he says. Yeh, he has been acting a little funny lately. As a matter of fact, he hasn't been the same since Watergate."
"All right," I said, "everyone can make fun of me, but when the call comes through you'll be laughing out of the other side of your mouths. And because of your attitude I'm not going to let any of you listen in."
Since then, every time someone calls, my wife says. "I can't talk. Art's expecting a call from President Carter."
"Big mouth. Do you have to tell everyone.?"
"I think it's kind of impressive. If he doesn't call by next week, why don't you call him? It might relieve the suspense."
"No way. You don't get the Pulitzer Prize if you call the President. The only way they'll give it to you is if he calls you."