Snapshot One: Why isn't the phone ringing???
"Well, I don't know," says Rep. Richard Nolan (D-Minn.), 35, earliest announced Kennedy-for-President supporter in the United States Congress. He rises from the couch.He laughes, a little nervously. "It should be ringing, shouldn't it?" He shrugs. "Maybe it's just a lull." He goes over to his immaculate and nearly bare desk. "Look here: I've got messages from CBS Radio, from Germany and England. See these?" He waves several small pieces of yellow paper. "They all called me today. This thing is happening, I tell you it's happening."
There comes a moment, both vague and exact, when the needle on the Washington political seismograph lunges and, suddenly, the candidate is in motion. For him, it's kleig lights and microphones and the call to arms with aides. For the workers, it's adrenaline and fraternity and a sense of history's great perhaps. In this case, the candidate is still not quite a candidate. But he is the last of the Kennedy brothers, and that doesn't dim the lights any or keep the minor players from getting in line. It only enhances the play's intrigue.
Snapshot two: A low-rent downtown law office, 10th floor, now serving as headquarters of the National Clearinghouse to Draft Kennedy. A young woman sits at a makeshift desk typing furiously. Around her are stacks of mimeograph paper, empty pop cans, buttons. On one wall is a giant blow-up of Teddy Kennedy. On another wall is a map grid of various states that have begun to sign up. You could take away the politics and this would be the kind of place where Sam Spade would be waiting between cases.
"I took out a $5,000 loan in July so I could do this. Look around you. Nobody here's getting paid. We're in it because we're believers," says Lou Gordon, director of the clearinghouse. Gordon, a former Hill press secretary, looks in his 30s. His coat is off, his tie down. He was here last night till midnight. He just took a call from his irate girlfriend.
"Yeah, something has to be done. I personally committed myself to the senator last fall," says Bill Sparks, national field director of the clearinghouse. Sparks is from North Carolina. His parents worked in mills. He has no money, he says, just ideals. Tomorrow, he and Grodon are due to appear on the "Today" show.
"There's not a cab driver in this city who doesn't think he's going to run," says Roland Mora, sitting nearby. Mora, half Apache Indian, is a former Marine Captain and Vietnam veteran. He used to work for Jimmy Carter. "I did advance in the campaign. I was in every city there was -- Portland, Cleveland. Now I'm over here. I saw the light."
"Just try walking down the street with one of our buttons on," says Gordon.
"Yeah, go into Burger King and see what happens," says Sparks.
"This is the kind of situation we're involved in: No one in this country is noncommittal about Edward Kennedy. I think that's really healthy," says Mora.
"It's very healthy," says Gordon.
They held a meeting the night before, says Sparks. Several prominent local politicians came, though he can't name names. "I'll tell you this. We got pledges for $25,000. and we didn't meet in Southeast. We met off Connecticut Avenue."
"I think it's a tidal wave," says Gordon.
"You bet," says Mora.
"Only thing, it's still out there somewhere by the Hawaiian islands."
Next week, they're moving to new offices on Dupont Circle, Sparks says. "The money's coming in now. We'll have up to 100 volunteers we can call on, interns from American U. Up till now, it's just been a few of us. Working on two phones trying to contact 50 states hasn't been much fun, believe me."
Rock Nolan is playing with the seam of one trouser leg. He is drinking Postum. An aide has interrupted to say that Rep. Les Aspin (D-Wis.) is coming out publicly for Kennedy. (Aspin, later in the day, denies this.) Nolan is seated in one of his deep, black-leather armchairs, surrounded by pictures of the rural Minnesota district he represents.
No, he isn't particularly a friend of Sen. Kennedy's, he says. The last time he talked to the senator was during the '78 congressional campaign, and then not for very long. "I have specifically avoided him since I began all this last spring. I didn't want to embarrass him . . . and I guess I didn't want him to tell me to stop."
He pauses. Perhaps he is thinking about the great perhaps. "I'm not really looking for anything to come out of this for me. I don't want a leadership role with Teddy Kennedy. I'm just doing it because I think I'm right."