In yesterday's story about Zbigniew Brzezinski, it was stated that at the end of an interview with a reporter from a national magazine -- as a joke -- Brzezinski committed an offensive act, and that a photographer took a picture "of this unusual expression of playfulness." Brzezinski did not commit such an act, and there is no picture of him doing so. A photograph of Brzezinski and the reporter was made, and Brzezinski autographed it at the reporter's request. The poses, shadows and background of this picture create an accidental "double entendre," which Brzezinski refers to in his caption. The magazine reporter states that nothing in the interview or the autographed picture offended her. The Washington Post sincerely regrets the error.
Zbigniew Brzezinski was first approached for an interview last June.
Shortly after the request Brzezinski began calling to negotiate the terms of the interview.
"I am by nature extremely shy and modest," demurred the highly publicized Brzezinski in the first phone call.
He flirted briefly with the idea of an interview, stopping just short of a promise. Then, responding to a suggestion that the reporter would sleep better knowing the interview was sewed up, he responded, "I would sleep better knowing that you sleep better."
He was only warming up.
The second phone call came on a weekend early in July. The profile was to be of him and his wife Muska. "We are not the kind of people who like all that publicity," he said.
The interview the week before in Women's Wear Daily, which had him posing nude from the waist up, was just a fluke, he explained.
"So you want to do an interview with me and my wife?" "Isn't that sexist? Or maybe just sexy," he giggled. "Husbands and wives have their own separate careers, you know . . . and maybe more than that separate."
He ended the conversation with the suggestion that the interview be put off for a few weeks.
"I'll wait and see who else you are going to decapitate."
The third conversation took place at the end of july.
"So," he said, "you want to find out what I'm really like. How are you going to find this out? You'll have to come and live with me. There's no other way."
His invitation was greeted with laughter.
"No," he said. "I'm serious. My wife will be out of town.
"Muska will be in Europe for the first three weeks in August," he said.
He was reminded that the reporter was married.
"Ha," he snorted. "Don't worry about that. I'll just talk to your husband about it, I can take care of him."
It was suggested that a one-hour interview was all that was asked for.
"No," he replied firmly. "You'll just have to come out here and live with me. That's the only way I will do it."
His name now is almost a household word. His face -- the pale skin, the squinting eyes, the narrow beak-like nose -- is instantly recognizable. The European accent is hauntingly familiar. His office walls are filled with autographed pictures of him and the greats.(No near-greats anymore.) Now people are asking him for his autograph.
You see him on television, in the pages of fashionable women's magazines. Now frequently out on the Washington social circuit, he likes to talk of himself as a sex symbol, to speak of the "aphrodisiac of power."
It is not Henry Kissinger being described here. It is Zbigniew Brzezinski, 51, President Carter's national security adviser. And in a mere three years' time he has managed to transform himself from an ambitious academic, a political science professor at Columbia University, into one of the few people who has the president's ear each day.
Scene 1: Zbgniew Brzezinski disco dancing at the "Hair" premiere jacket off, tie loose, hair askew, socks down around his ankles, flirting with 16 year olds, remarking with glee, "as far as discoing is concerned, it's merely an exercise form of vicarious sexual experience."
Scene 2: Zbigniew Brzezinski at the art gallery opening for his wife's sculptures, telling all of those invited on White House stationery that the president was coming. The president never showed up.
Scene 3: Zbigniew Brzezinski racing his Chinese guide up to the Great Wall shouting, "First one up gets to fight the Russians in Ethiopia."
Scene 4: Zbigniew Brzezinski calling the president's secretary four times a day with funny little tidbits, gossip, and practical jokes.
Scene 5: Zbigniew Brzezinski leading conservatives and liberals to agree.
"He's a very, very arrogant, self-opinionated man," says Sen. Barry Goldwater (R-Ariz.) "And he's a hawk. His advice is much more in line with mine than Cy Vance's. He should be my kind of guy. But he is arrogance with a capital A."
"I endorse Barry," says Sen. George McGovern (D-S.D.).
Zbigniew Brzezinski is a fascinating study in the politics of the power grab in Washington, a study in how it should be done but more important, how it should not be done.
It is no secret in Washington that Secretary of State Vance and the president's national security adviser cannot stand each other. They have tried, over the last three years to cover up their personal animosity toward each other. But almost anyone closely associated with either one will admit it exists.
Their rivalry has now become a campaign issue, for none other than Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.).
"One of the most troublesome aspects . . . of the recent period," said Kennedy last week, "is the proliferation of many voices that speak for the administration in foreign policy questions and in defense policy questions."
A Kennedy staffer later explained that he was talking about the well-publicized differences between Vance and Brzezinski.
But even men who have been despised in some quarters in Washington during their careers will inspire loyalty or affection or admiration in some group, no matter how small. Not Brzezinski -- at least on the basis of over 50 interviews with foreign policy experts, government officials and Washington observers. Which is why this becomes such an interesting case.
Here is a man in one of the most potentially powerful positions in Washington with one major constituent . . . The President.
How does this happen?
One of Brzezinski's oldest friends, writer Jerzy Kosinski, who has known him since Kosinski took a course from Brzezinski at Columbia, explains his friend this way. In 1960, he says, Zbig struck his American friends as being "rigid."
"I thought he was pragmatic," says Kosinski. "They thought he was heartless. I thought he was unsentimental. He is utterly non-sentimental.
"He has a true corporate mind . . . he's very confrontational. His personal manner reinforces the notion of rigidity, of brusqueness. He is eminently articulate -- a foreigner must be understood. Americans perceive articulateness as rigid."
The corporate mind is systematic, calculating, direct. To an observer Brzezinski, it seems, has analyzed the Washington power structure, synthesized the necessary components for making it and organized a set of goals toward this objective.
In the Politics of the Power Grab the nine steps to notoriety are:
1. Setting of Aims
2. Handling of Crises
3. Inviting of Publicity
4. Choosing the Right Constituency
5. Pursuing the Correct Rivals
6. Clarity of Purpose
7. Outdoing One's Predecessors
8. Maintaining Illusions
9. Exploiting Personality 1. Setting of Aims
It was November of 1968 and Zbigniew Brzezinski was seated at a banquet table at Princeton University. He was then a professor of government at Columbia University, and he was keenly watching a fellow professor of government, Henry Kissinger of Harvard, march to the microphone. Kissinger's appointment as national security adviser had been announced the night before and so Kissinger, with apologies to his fellow academics, said that he could not now deliver his planned speech. Brzezinski smiled and turned to the person on his left, a Washington Post reporter.
"Someday, I will be secretary of state."
The reporter laughed.
"No. Really. I am not kidding. Someday I will be secretary of state."
It it possible that Carter would make Brzezinski secretary of state if he wins the 1980 election?
One who has worked both on the NSC staff and at the State Department observes that "Presidents shrink the circles of advisers as they go on. The question should be does Carter want to start out with a new man as secretary of state. Who would he pick?"
"There has been something of a shift," says Bill Quandt, a former Brzezinski staffer now at the Brookings Institution. "Vance is a lame duck and Zbig is looking for ways to assert himself. I would have said no, he didn't have a chance, six months ago."
In the scores of interviews for this piece the opinion was overwhelming that Brzezinski's one goal in life is to become secretary of state. And an observer who has watched him operate for years says with total assurance that, "from the beginning of his career he has set his eyes on the only thing he wants . . . to be secretary of state."
In unpublished excerpts of an interview with another reporter, Brzezinski reluctantly agreed that Cyrus Vance is a better secretary of state than he would be and denied ever wanting to be secretary of state -- though he didn't want to remain an academic forever.
"I used to say, I don't want to become a Mr. Chips. I don't see myself walking through Harvard Yard when I'm in mid 60s in a tweed jacket, carrying slightly yellowed notes to deliver for the 60th time a lecture.
"I wanted to be engaged in world affairs, I didn't want to be secretary of state then and I don't want to be secretary of state now." (Laughter) 2. Handling of Crises
At a recent dinner party one Sunday night, a private party filled with the Washington media and political establishment, Brzezinski arrived without his wife. It was the night Mike Wallace had interviewed Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini on "60 Minutes." Brzezinski was in a rather agitated state toward the beginning of the evening. As the buffet was served, he took a plate and joined a group, several of whom were members of the press.
Glowering, Brzezinski turned to one of the men and attacked him about the irresponsibility of the media. How could they do this interview, he wanted to know, thereby glorifying our enemies, making heroes of villains and terrorists. "The press is being used," he said, "catering to the enemies of this country, and they are out to make a buck." Working himself up he finally announced to the group, "There ought to be some way to control the press. The press in this country should be controlled. (Government sources said Brzezinski was outraged because Mike Wallace and others were able to make contact with Khomeini when the administration had not been able to.)
He was immediately pounced on by the group, and barely controlling his rage, he made brief apologies to the hostess and stormed out.
Later, on "Face the Nation" when a question was asked about the media he would say, "By and large the media has performed well," and "No institution is perfect."
Zbigniew Brzezinski had been keeping an uncharacteristically low profile during the first part of the Iranian crisis.
Of course, it had been decided that for political reasons it would be better to keep the focus on State, on spokesman Hodding, Carter and Cyrus Vance, thus distancing the president and the White House from the problem.
Still, it wasn't like Zbig just to sit back and watch.
Or was it?
"Zbig," says a former staffer, "has a tendency, when things are not going well, to back off so he won't be associated with it. His knowledge of the Iranian situation was very poor at the beginning, (when he took over the job) very inadequate. It was very frustrating. He talked a tough line, about how we had to stick with the shah, but he didn't push, he was not affecting policy he was just carping on the sidelines. Day in and day out nothing really happened."
Consequently, as he gave his usual backgrounders to columnists and reporters there was an uncharacteristic air of frustration.
He would mention that certain responsibilities had been left to the State Department, insinuating that those were the lesser responsibilities. And he would allude to the fact that the more important decisions were his. Yet there was less than definitive culpability. One could never tell, after all, how this thing would work out. . . .
To questions about whether the shah should be sent away from America, he fumed more than once that this reflected the "spineless, gutless" attitude that weakens the country and leaves it without respect. It was amazing to Brzezinski the U.S. ever delaying letting him in and he saw no need for apologies.
Normally, on a subject he felt secure about, Brzezinski would have found a way to insure his name would be in the papers, taking credit for the policy.He has often even been known to brag to other reporters and staffers about leaking himself. "That was no announcement, that was a leak," he crowed once about reports of Secretary of Defense Harold Brown's upcoming trip to China.
This crisis there was a total blank . . . until things looked a bit as if they might clear. Suddenly Brzezinski strode into a Sperling Breakfast for reporters a week or so ago and stunned everyone by announcing he wanted it on the record. Then, he agreed to go on "Face the Nation" after refusing for almost a month, with no explanation. He demanded only that he tape an hour ahead instead of doing the show live -- strange since the policy is to run the show exactly as it was taped.
Brzezinski watchers point out that the emergence on television was timed perfectly for the day Vance departed for Europe, leaving the field clear for the national security adviser suddenly to act like Secretary of state.
Meanwhile, Brzezinski has been doing a little politicking on the side.He shopped around the reporters last week trying to sell the story that Argentina had been willing to take the shah until Sen. Edward Kennedy's anti-Shah remarks. Therefore Teddy was responsible for the shah still being here.
Brzezinski's detractors at State feel that Brzezinski has fumbled the whole Iranian situation from the beginning and that he may have been responsible for the fall of the Bazargan government in Iran by meeting with Bazargan while he was in Algiers.
One analysis of why Brzezinski is having such a hard time with the Iranian crisis is that there are no Russians involved and he is lost without an anti-Soviet stance.
On "Face the Nation" last Sunday he alluded to the Russians' influence on the militants by talking about the similarity of "attitudes" between the Communists and the militants.
Finally, Brzezinski is trying to place much of the blame in the current Iranian crisis on Kissinger. At the Sperling Breakfast Dec. 6 he was asked about Kissinger's theory that all of this happened in Iran because The United States has a weak foreign policy.
"There's a great deal of truth to that," he said. "And we've been trying to convert eight years of foreign policy in that regard."
Ah, but there is a method to all of this. After Kissinger left government three years ago Brzezinski befriended then-Iranian ambassador Ardeshir Zahedi.
So it was only natural that Brzezinski would think of Zahedi when Shirley MacLaine came to lunch at the White House. She had just returned from Cuba and she was bringing Brzezinski a box of cigars, a gift from Fidel Castro. The very same Castro, Brzezinski has labeled an enemy of the state, a tool of the Russians.
Anyway, Brzezinski was very excited. So excited, in fact that he called up Zahedi, and asked him if he could rush some caviar over to the White House.
Zahedi was used to dishing out caviar the way most ambassadors dispense calling cards, yet he later told Nancy Kissinger that in all of his years as ambassador to the U.S. Zbigniew Brzezinski, was the only person in Washington who had ever actually asked for it. 3. Inviting of Publicity
It is early in the evening and Brzezinski is in his office with several of his staffers going over an important policy matter. They are in the midst of discussion when suddenly he jumps up and rushes over to turn on the TV.
"I just want to see," he says, "if I made the Cronkite show."
Zbigniew Brzezinski is the first national security adviser who has ever had a press secretary. Not even Kissinger had one. For this job he chose Jerry Schecter, a former Time magazine reporter.
Since Brzezinski is constantly torn between the thrill of making headlines and the risk of making a fool of himself, Schecter has his headaches.
From the transcripts of an interview with another reporter, Brzezinski says, "Well, I'm not aggressive either. I'm mild, modest, shy, self-effacing, as everybody who knows me well knows. Jerry will confirm it. He gets paid for it." (Laughter.)
People who go to Brzezinski directly often have a better chance of getting an interview than if they go through Schecter.
Still, every once in a while an unsuspected reporter will slip through Schecter's barriers.
On one trip to the Middle East, a female reporter asked Brzezinski for an interview and as it turned out the only time he had free was 11 that night. Desperate for a few minutes with him, she agreed to see him later in his suite.
Schecter was so enraged that she had gotten to Brzezinski without going through him that he told other reporters that the only reason she had gotten to him was by going alone to his bedroom and "God knows what else she did there to get the interview."
According to his friend Jerzy Kosinski, Brzezinski's pleasure in publicity is not surprising.
"In a corporate state," says Kosinski, "corporations issue books about themselves, booklets that state they exist. This is his way of proving that he exists, of proving his standing in the community. The job he has has no glamor. Secretary of state has glamor. This job is neither this nor that. Since the job is so closed, the man must be open."
And of course, nobody forgets the ever-present specter of Henry Kissinger and Kissinger's brilliant manipulation of the press.
And as someone very close to Kissinger says, "Zbig has always been in a position where he has felt an enormous need to attract attention that came to Henry normally."
One top White House adviser says about Brzezinski, "He's pretty insecure. Everyone knows he's a publicity idiot. He can't understand how [Robert] Strauss [now chairman of the Carter/Mondale campaign] gets such good press.It drives him crazy. He's tried to imitate some of Strauss' homey sayings. It's kind of sad, pathetic. He takes it so seriously."
The self-aggrandizement problem more often than not is just an irritant for most people who have to deal with Brzezinski.
Recently Brzezinski was riding in his limousine with his press aide Jerry Schecter. Schecter was "briefing" Brzezinski about a congressman who had come out against the sale of arms to Morocco. Schecter informed the national security adviser that this congressman had been getting briefings from members of the State Department. Brzezinski hit the roof. Grabbing the phone in the limousine, he demanded the operator get him Warren Christopher, deputy secretary of state. When he got Christopher on the phone, Brzezinski related what he had just heard. "The president," he berated Christopher in a rather threatening tone of voice, "is very concerned about this."
Other times it can really cause foreign policy problems. According to one State Department official, when Brzezinski went to China, Party Chairman Hua Guofeng was one of the people he met with. During their talk he told Hua that he was in charge of American foreign policy and defense policy as well. This message came back in a cable from American operatives in China and caused no end of confusion among the State Department people here and those at the Chinese delegation here.
Then there was the dinner party Zbig gave for Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping at his house during Deng's visit here then gave an extensive interview on the subject of how he had pulled off such a coup.
"It's amazing, when you think of it," he said. "The leader of a billion people -- having dinner at my house just two hours after he arrived in this country!
"I mean, it really is rather amazing."
Not to mention the fact that he did the same thing when the pope came to this country, snaring His Holiness for an intimate evening with the Brzezinskis.
The national security adviser enjoys himself in the limelight.
A reporter for a national magazine recently went to the White House to interview Brzezinski.
The interview was very jolly. A great success. Not surprisingly Brzezinski was pleased with himself, exuberant.
So exuberant, that as the reporter was leaving he began to joke around and flirt with her.
Suddenly he unzipped his fly.
The photographer who was with them took a picture of this unusual expression of playfulness.
Shortly afterward the reporter received a photograph of the private moment they had shared, captured for eternity.
It was inscribed by Zbigniew Brzezinski.