"One of the rougher days we've had," said Hamilton Jordon at the end of it.
He was talking, of course, about the resignation of U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young yesterday. It didn't matter that the new chief of staff was at a party, drinking Budweiser with the old Georgia crowd. Everybody still wanted to know the latest.
"It won't be possible to find someone who had the instant credibility that Andy had," Jordon said. "It's going to hurt us with the U.N. and it's going to hurt us with the Third World countries."
Young was the second Georgian officially to leave the Carter administration yesterday. The first was the attorney general, who enjoyed a much more ceremonious departure at a goodbye Griffin Bell, hello Ben Civiletti get-together at the Justice Department last night. About 200 people came to exchange superlatives about the once and future attorneys general, drink a little , and shiver a lot in the chill of the outside courtyard.
Jordon, naturally, attracted a steady stream of partyers hungry for the word on Young. And when he wasn't talking Andy Young, he was talking clothes. Or rather, his new image in clothes.
"Well, look at this man in his pin-striped suit," said Chuck Morgan, the former ACLU chief and an early Carter supporter.
"This is a rented pin-striped suit," responded Jordon.
Countered Morgan: "I'd like to relax a little these days. Can I rent your old image?"
Some people at the party hadn't even heard about Young's resignation in the wake of his two sets of remarks about the PLO meeting. When asked for a comment, a few responded with "Really?" But others said they weren't surprised. "I think he had it coming," said one guest.
If you had been keeping score at this party, the Georgian/Griffin Bell faction would have beat out the Baltimore/Ben Civiletti crowd. Easy.
After all, the Georgians had Jordon and Morgan as well as a whole gang of smooth-talking lawyers from Atlanta's mammoth King and Spalding firm. There were also bunches of Georgia businessmen who were real pleased that Bell was coming back home.
The other team wasn't nearly so snazzy, offering instead a few judges and local government types -- old friends of Civiletti, the Baltimore native.
The Georgians even beat out the Baltimore crowd in the poetry department. Like with this goodbye-to-Griffin limerick, composed by Solicitor General Wade McCree (who earlier had been quoting Elizabeth Barrett Browning with Chief Justice Warren Burger):
When Grif Bell first came to this hall,
His detractors predicted a fall, But they all stayed to cheer,
As the parting draws near, And we're sure gonna miss his 'Y'all.'
(The limerick was a highlight at a Justice Department goodbye for Bell earlier in the day when staffers presented him with his Cabinet chair. It cost $900 to get it from the White House.)
"Nine hundred dollars?" said Bell incredulously when told later of the cost. "For a second-hand chair? Whew, Must be inflation."
The ceremony, Bell said, was an emotional one. "I started out with some jokes, but then I got very serious. I almost choked up and I had difficulty delivering the last line of my speech."
Bell, however, was full of jokes at the evening party. And jokes were yet another area where the Baltimore crowd had to admit defeat.
Civiletti, known for being something of a stuffed shirt, lamented a little that he'll never be as witty as his predecessor.
"I have a sense of humor," Civiletti said. "But I don't have the gift of informality and wit that comes naturally to Griffin Bell."
Others at the party included Rep. Peter Rodino (D-N.J.); Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.); Robert Strauss, the president's Middle East negotiator; FBI Director William Webster and Edward Bennett Williams, the attorney who's just bought the Orioles and wasn't at their game in Baltimore last night.
Today at noon, Bell becomes just another lawyer at King and Spalding. "I'll miss Washington," he said. "But it's time to move on."