The president's trip to Wilson, recently was his first act of unmitigated political hackery in some time. It was a low and undignified form of vote catching to walk into that tobacco warehouse and mouth such unalloyed barf about how the scientists should find a safe cigarette and to do it on the very day the American Medical Association, which had once been the vehicle for cigarette industry puffery (choke!), came out with findings of a most damning study on tobacco usage.
A couple of days later we descry our chief magistrate on the steps of City Hall in New York conducting the sort of bill-signing ceremony which is usually done at the presidential desk in the White House. The bill in question is the one which says the city of New York doesn't have to pay its debts because the federal government will. You might think this is one piece of legislation Carter wouldn't care to draw attention to but that, as they say in sports, is a judgment call, and perhaps the good will the president didn't harvest from the tobacco farmers he got from the residents in the city of a 8 million moochers.
These paradings and picture takings are meant to push El Presidente up in the public opinion polls.
Ordinarily presidents and their retinues are accused of going astray because they believe their own propaganda. Carter's case may be a rare reversal. He seems to believe his opponents' propaganda . . . the endless bunkum about his staff not mixing socially with the Washington peerage or their alleged failure to manipulate Congress.
In actually the staff has been dining out but with doleful consequences. People, total strangers, come up to them in restaurants and throw chocolate pudding in their face, while on the Hill, the administration in a vain and ceaseless effort to master the are of getting Congress to do right has made too many concessions of too serious a nature.
That may be why Teddy Kennedy accused President Carter of abandoning his leadership role on the health insurance bill. With this administration's splendid record on inflation, to say, as the president has, that health insurance must wait for a Sanfocised, non-shrinking dollar is [WORD ILLEGIBLE] to saying he's agreeable to no health legislation till sometime in the middle of the next decade.
Teddy Kennedy knows how to deal in compromise. He's an effective senator. He also knows when you don't, and one of the times you don't compromise is when you don't have the votes, when you have no chance of getting through what you want to get through. Then you stick to your first demands because you're going to get racked-up anyway.
On issue after issue, health, taxes, public works, etc., the pattern is the same. Initially they tell him he should be flexible, the art of the possible, etc., so he scales down his demands; then they say even that's too much so he backs up again and then, after he's all but given away the candle, they tell him they're not going to pass it anyway.
Carter should realize he's getting skunked on the Hill, not because he doesn't know Washington, and not because his chief advisers have chocolate pudding on their face but because he doesn't have the votes. The majority of those guys in Congress don't think as he does and he's not going to change their minds. He may not be able to drive them from office, but his only chance for his program is to stand firm in Washington and on the stump. So next time he goes to Wilson, let him speak about lung cancer and health insurance. His Gallup number may not go up but respect for him will.