Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
The governor of Washington, decked out in a black velvet jumper that covered most of the severe gray silk blouse beneath, glanced around the candlelit opulence of the Pan American Union Monday night.
"You know," said Dixy Lee Ray, one of only two women chief executives of an American state, "there are only 50 jobs like this in the whole world, and most of us are here in Washington this week. Frankly, I find Washington a very artifical place. It isn't real.
"The obsession with the seamier side of politics," she continued, "political intrigue and imagery just aren't the things that matter to people where I come from. Take for instance all this Hamilton Jordan business. It wasn't even reported in the state of Washington.I didn't even know about it until I read it in the papers when I came here.
"But then I have always said that Washington is constipated and bounded by the beltway that leads into it."
That wasn't, of course, the opinion of every governor gathered at the dinner party given by Secretary General of the Organization of American States Alejandro Orfila and his wife Helga.
Of the 32 governors who showed up (California's Jerry Brown and West Virginia's Jay Rockefeller were among the visibly absent), it seemed about the most distant thing from their minds were the antics of Jimmy Carter's White House crew.
"Hamilton Jordan?" asked Gov. Michael S. Dukakis of Massachusetts, rhetorically about the president's top assistant. "Whatever he's doing hasn't had much impact in my state. When the history of this administration is written, I doubt if Mr. Jordan's social problems will have an effect one way or another."
Dukakis added, however, that he thought having a former governor in the White House was a plus for everybody concerned.
"I find that this administration is more responsive to the states and their problems, particularly those of New England," he said.
The governors were into their second day of their annual winter meeting, and upon entering at the Pan American Union building were advised by signs not to touch the orchids which were part of the floral arrangements for the black-tie dinner.
It was the third year Orfila had hosted the event, with the tab picked up by the OAS.
"I don't believe there is a better way to dramatize what the United States is than to bring everybody together at something like this. Knowing Washington or New York is not enough for someone from South America, which is why there are 25 Latin American ambassadors here," Orfila said.
There were also four cabinet officers, six U.S. Senators and 15 members of the House of Representatives.
"It's the closest fraternity in the world," said Oregon Sen. Mark Hatfield (R), referring to his former status as governor. Hatfield and his wife Tony were introducing Oregon's current governor, Robert W. Straub, a Democrat, as the man who delivers the eggs his wife's chickens lay, twice a week in the capital at Salem.
"You've heard of 'the bag man'?" Tony Hatfield asked. "Well, he's known as 'the egg man.'"
For his part, Straub said that Carter had a "positive image" in his state.
"We feel a year's time is too short to judge his performance," he said, echoing a sentiment advanced by several governors. "After all, being president is the most difficult job in the world. Any major corporation would have trained a man 10 years to take over the top job."
On the subject of Carter's intimates, however> Straub, the westerner, was more critical.
"Hamiton Jordan? If it's true, I don't like it."
At their winter meeting, the National Governor's Association met with Carter Monday, taking up the question of energy as one of the pressing problems facing the nation.
Though it was a social evening, no one, needless to say, missed a chance to lobby his cause. South Carolina's Gov. James B. Edwards spent much of his evening rattling something that looked like square marbles ("glassified brickettes," he called them) in an attempt to point up his state's apparently overwhelming desire to start operating an inactive $385-million nuclear plant at Barnwell.
On the subject of President Carter's expertise in that field, however, Edwards, a Republican, was somewhat cynical.
"He's a unclear engineer who had a course for six weeks in the Navy and thinks he knows all about it."
To the accompaniment of Latin American music, guests dined at round tables of eight on a menu that included lobster with shrimp and apples; filet mignon and wines from the Orfila family vineyard in Argentina, and a flaming torte.
Although the dinner wasn't totally devoid of White House representatives, one veteran party-goer, Japan's ambassador Fumihiko Togo, did note that "during the Ford administration we would have seen more people from the White House here tonight."