"Even before this started, there were negative feelings about Peter from the right and the left," said Bob Dupont, an old friend of the president's ex-adviser on drug abuse.
"In the end, the climate was that of a bunch of sharks swimming around with blood in the water, moving in for the kill. It was the saddest thing to watch, the excitement so many seemed to feel about another head rolling. Some people are saying. 'Ha, ha, he's getting his,' and reveling in the pain," Dupont said.
So came Bourne's swift resignation in the wake of the miniscandal his questionable prescription writing and reports of private drug use have created for the White House.
It is a tough town of glass houses, stiff rules and fast and fickle tongues and Bourne is the second Carter intimate to leave Washington within the year. Unlike Bert Lance, though, no one urged the presidential aide to change his mind. One White House aide described the current mood as one of relief that he was gone, mixed with apprehension over the can of worms he opened in departing interviews indicating casual, recreational drug use in the White House.
An urbane, 38-year-old political maverick who favored dark blue, three-piece suits, Bourne crafted Carter's progressive drug rehabilitation program back in Georgia. He was among the first to begin hard-selling Washington on the idea of a peanut farmer for president.
In 1971, he wrote a prescient, 11-page memo urging Carter to run for president in 1976, and the famous, tactical memo Hamilton Jordan later wrote outlining how it could be accomplished is said to have sprung from this.
When Carter began to run hard for the brass ring, Bourne was living in Washington working in the felt somewhat misunderstood.
"Mary and I had a job he he left his job, and, with his second wife, Mary Kind, began moving and shaking about the corridors of power, keeping the back doors to official Washington open as Carter closed them in his hand race against the establishment he has yet to win over.
The splashy press they got left many Carter aides sneering over a style that was hardly considered red clay, good ol' boy. Bourne was never regarded as an insider's insider, but he was aware of what they were saying; he left somewhat misunderstood.
"Mary and I had a job here, which was to get publicity, to sell Jimmy Carter," he once said. "To do that, we had to say, 'Look at us, you may not know him, but we're the kind of people who support him.' We got press that may have been misunderstood in Atlanta."
Even as he left Washington last week to seek refuge far away from America's unfairest city, there was little inner circle support. "There was no compassion for the person like there was with Bert Lance," said one White House staffer. "Most people around here are just upset that it makes the president look bad. Imagine: H'ere's the president's drug adviser getting busted on a drug charge."
Added another Gerogian who has observed Bourne both here and in Atlanta: "He's not close to the inner circle of Hamilton, jody, Tim (Kraft) and the others because he's not the . . . scratching type. H's not a good old boy. He's very dignified and ambitious. He's different."
Still, Carter rewarded them both with $50,000-a-year jobs. Bourne went to work on his pet programs - drug policy, national health insurance, world hunger - in a cramped, windowless office in the basement of the White House, next to the snack bar and the steno pool. He had access to the Oval Office any time, but he has said he chose to communicate with his boss in memos.
King, who also liberal credentials from civil rights days and the women's movement, took over as deputy director of ACTION, the $100-million-a-year agency which includes VISTA, the Peace Corps and other volunteer organizations. The day her husband resigned, she kept her appointments, lobbying congressmen on the hill, taking care of business, said a staffer.
Her agressive style has earned her a following of acid-tongued critics, and Carter campaign workers bristled when she "waltzed into Atlanta campaign headquarters and started playing queen," said one Georgian.
"She's nice up, and nasty down," said one ACTION worker who explained many Carterites viewed Bourne and King as a power couple. "She's nice to people she thinks can do her some good, but not nearly as thoughtful to those below. But she's good at person-to-person politics on the Hill and has a strategic political mind. She's also got the confidence to pull things off."
Bourne's style was more understated, with flashes of British reserve, and, in spite of his leftward political tilt, he managed to get along inside the Nixon White House. One government official who worked with him in those days remembered him as "extremely bright, agressive, somewhat ruthless, unafraid to step on toes . . . and indistinguishable, but somewhat more diplomatic, than the rest of the Nixon crew."
Cynthia O'Connell, who assisted Bourne in drug abuse work in 1973, said, "Peter is one of the most giving, real, gentle people I've ever met. The American public lost on this one. If ever there was anyone who could have gotten responsible drug laws enacted it was Peter.
"I'm sure he didn't sit in the East Room of the White House and snort cocaine. (But) what difference does it make what he did in his spare time, if it didn't affect his work or his decisions."
Perhaps Peter Bourne is the first victim of Jimmy Carter's campaign image as rock 'n' roll's good old boy. Campaign image-makers courted youth with the notion that it was going to be the Woodstock administration, that everyone was going to get down and boogie with the likes of Gregg Allman and Cher. Life with Jimmy was going to be a blast: sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll.
So, it is understandable why young liberals would see Peter Bourne, a reputed liberal and the president's main man in the field of drugs, in effect, as their own Dr. Hip. He would bring marijuana to the masses. Instead, though, he favored spraying their grass with the poison, Paraquat, and to 20 million marijuana consumers, he ranked by the end, as among America's most hated men.
The pro-marijuana lobby, NORML, turned on Bourne with a vengeance.
It was at the NORML annual convention party seven months ago that witnesses said they saw Bourne casaully use marijuana and cocaine, a charge he has denied.
It was quite a turnabout for a doctor who had earned his liberal stripes as a civil-rights activist, who worked in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury free clinic, helped found Vietnam Veterans Against the War after a stint doing research on combat stress in Vietnam and favored decriminalization of marijuana and herion maintenance to ease the pain of terminal cancer patients.