While on his recent trip, President Carter was overheard on a live TV microphone telling Secretary of State Cyrus Vance that when they got back home they would write a blunt letter to Prime Minister Desai of India telling him exactly what they thought of India's stand on atomic energy.
The question you're probably asking is: Who writes blunt notes at the State Department?
The answer is a man named Arnold Blunt. He has been struggling with the Carter request for more than a week no wand he was very disturbed when I walked into his office and interrupted his work.
"This is one of the toughest blunt letters I've ever had to write," Blunt told me.
"What makes it tougher than a blunt note to the Soviet Union?"
"India is a Third World power, and they're very touchy. It's taken several years to get over their hurt when we tilted toward Pakistan, and we'd like to keep good relations with them if we possibly can. So we have to make the letter blunt but yet not hit them over the head."
"That does pose a problem."
"The White House has rejected several drafts of blunt notes I've sent over there."
"Can I see them?"
"Well, the first I stole from the blunt note Jerry Ford sent New York." He showed it to me. All it said was "Carter to India: 'Drop dead!'"
"The President thought it was too brief?" I asked.
"He felt it didn't explain why we were being so blunt after the way he has entertained." Arnold handed me another draft. "I thought this one was pretty good, but they also nixed it."
"It read, 'Mrs. Carter and I would like to thank you for all the kindness you showed us on our recent trip to your beautiful country. It was perfect in every way except that I've advised everyone in my administration not to drink your heavy water.'"
"That seems pretty good. It certainly makes the President's point."
"I thought so, too, but they want something friendlier and at the same time more blunt. This is the kind draft I did.
"It began, 'Dear Prime Minister Desai: This is just a short note to tell you how much my entire party enjoyed our stay in India. I am delighted with our agreement on human rights, hopes for more trade between our two countries and your desire to back me in my solution to the Middle East crisis.
"'But you're out of your cotton-pickin' mind if you think we're going to give you atomic reactors for energy without safeguards. We've had it up to here with India trying to become an atomic power, and if you use one ounce of our plutonium for a bomb or a missile, we'll defoliate the entire vale of Kashmir.'"
"The White House didn't like that one?" I asked Blunt.
"They said it sounded too much like Nixon."
"You're really up a tree," I said.
"I think the one I'm working on now might do it. Listen to this: 'Dear Prime Minister Desai: I wish to thank you for the sari you gave my wife and the elephant tusk you gave me. We really enjoyed our gifts. Under separate cover I am sending you a complete Westinghouse Electric atomic energy plant. The instructions with it were written by my Polish translator, and I'm sure you won't have any trouble putting it together. If you do, just call my brother Billy. He has spent his lifetime in the atomic energy business and he will be able to explain anything that your scientists don't understand. Wishing you the best of health. Jimmy Carter'."
"By heaven," I told Blunt, "I think you've got it."